Group Fitness Certification Comparison
ACE vs. AFAA? NETA vs. ACE? To help you decide which organization to go with for your Group Fitness Instructor Certification, we’ve decided to put all the information we could find on the table. Our goal is to help you make the most informed decision you can. Do your research to make sure you are obtaining your certification from a respected and credible organization. The one you choose will play a large part in how you serve your clients in the future.
How are ACE and AFAA Group Fitness Certifications different?
Group Fitness Certification Organizations
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Choose Your Study Program
Take the first step in becoming an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor by choosing a program of study materials to help you prepare for the exam. Our two options feature a variety of study aids – from flashcards to online practice tests.
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Are NCCA and DETC accreditation the same?
No, they are not. Originally formed in 1977 as the National Commission for Health Certifying Agencies, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) establishes standards of excellence for certification programs and awards accreditation to programs that meet the standards. To date, it has awarded accreditation to over 300 programs from more than 120 organizations, including credentials for registered dietitians, athletic trainers, registered nurses, medical assistants, occupational therapists, pharmacists, financial planners, and fitness professionals. ACE has maintained NCCA accreditation for all four primary certifications — including Group Fitness Instructor — since 2003.
The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) establishes standards of excellence for distance education and training. It does not, however, accredit comprehensive certification programs. While DETC is considered a leading accrediting association for distance learning courses, NCCA accreditation is considered the gold standard for professional certification programs in healthcare, allied health, fitness and beyond.
For employers, a certification from an NCAA-accredited program is an easy and reliable way to identify a qualified candidate.
Is the AFAA assessment easier than the ACE exam?
Yes, it is. While textbooks from both organizations cover similar topics, AFAA does not cover the same level of depth as ACE nor test candidates on the same breadth of material. In addition, while the AFAA assessment gauges candidates’ knowledge of the material covered, the ACE certification exam tests how they will use that knowledge in a practical setting. Instead of assessing the ability to simply memorize content, the ACE Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) Certification tests candidates on proper decision-making skills and their ability to safely lead groups of exercisers by using teaching techniques suitable for multiple learning styles simultaneously, and modify workouts based on the specific needs of a diverse array of participants by incorporating aspects of behavioral coaching into their classes.
The level of comprehension is reflected in the number of continuing education credits that each certification is worth industry-wide. The ACE GFI Certification is valued at 2.0 CECs, while the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification is worth 0.5 CECs, meaning that the ACE GFI Certification entails four times the hours of learning (i.e., 20 hours vs. 5 hours).
Is AFAA a better assessment because it includes a practical portion?
AFAA does offer a workshop option where students can be tested in a classroom setting; however, that approach, according to testing and psychometric best practices, leaves too much room for error and subjectivity. With hundreds of assessors all over the world, the level of objectivity and relative difficulty will vary with each workshop. Based on standards required for NCCA accreditation, ACE includes a practical element in most of the questions that appear on the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam. By using a case-study or scenario-based approach, the ACE assessment can gauge whether a candidate has the ability to solve real-life problems and deliver safe and effective class experiences instead of simply memorizing material.
How will my certification choice be affected by the pending NSF Standards?
The NSF/ANSI Standard 341 for Health and Fitness Facilities will be used two different ways: 1) as a reference for best practices and 2) as the guiding document for a voluntary fitness facility certification that will be offered through NSF (the timeline for implementation is uncertain).
For fitness and other professionals, the standards require certification or licensure for staff in key positions of management, as well as practitioners. Personal trainers and group fitness instructors must hold a current certification from an accredited certification organization, defined as an organization that has received third-party approval of its certification procedures and practices from an appropriate agency that offers accreditation for organizations that provide competency-based exams. From a practical standpoint, that limits the qualifying third-party accreditors for certifying bodies to either the NCCA or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in the United States since the other accrediting organizations are accreditors of vocational or academic educational programs.
For professionals with certifications from an NCCA-accredited program like the ACE GFI, there will likely be no impact. As facilities either prepare for NSF facility certification or begin to align their job descriptions with NSF Standards, those individuals with other certifications will likely be encouraged to earn an NCCA-accredited fitness certification or find themselves falling short of required qualifications. This could be particularly impactful on the group fitness profession given the relatively large number of instructors without an accredited primary certification.
Group exercise is a constantly changing environment. Does that determine at all which exam has more valuable information?
The ever-changing landscape of group fitness is something with which every professional is familiar. In recent years, certification organizations have responded to the growing demand in our field by creating narrowly focused education programs designed to get instructors on the floor fast. By using time-tested, reliable and science-based information as a baseline, the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification will give candidates the knowledge to design and teach any class better, lead all fitness levels more effectively and deliver experiences participants will never forget. The ACE exam is also updated every three to five years with a months-long process of consultation with subject-matter experts, whose input is then validated by up to 2,000 practicing group fitness professionals.
I can earn an AFAA certification with a weekend workshop, but ACE requires months of study. How can someone learn what they need to teach effectively in one weekend?
While you can earn some group fitness certifications in one weekend, you will not however be able to obtain all the knowledge you need to consistently design and lead effective and appropriate group exercise experiences for a wide range of participants with diverse needs, as well as provide coaching and protect clients from harm. The depth of knowledge you will gain with an ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification will give you the tools to respond correctly to a variety of different situations — not just memorize the material you need for a short-term basis. To truly discover the difference in education level between the ACE exam and the AFAA assessment, look no further than the continuing education credit levels assigned (industry wide) to each certification. The ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification is valued at 2.0 CECs (20 CEUs) while the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Leadership Certification is worth 0.5 CECs (5 CEUs).